A ransom-ware attack using the malware virus known as “WannaCry” spread through the world on Friday causing headaches and disruptions to dozens of institutions. In Great Britain, treatments at the National Health Service had to be deferred. Train systems in Germany and Russia caused travel delays. Phone companies had to restore service in Madrid and Moscow. Most experts think more pain will be felt this week, particularly as people start their week Monday morning. As of Saturday evening at least 126,000 computers in 104 countries had been infected.
The virus infects a computer after an attachment is opened, encrypting files, and holding them ransom until the files’ owners agree to pay a ransom. This particular virus is so destructive because once it infects a single computer spreads throughout a network without the host taking further action. It exploits a vulnerability in the Windows operating system and originally developed by the National Security Agency (NSA) in the United States. Microsoft has offered free patches to users in order to close the operating systems vulnerabilities if the operating system had not been recently updated.
In a blog post, Microsoft stated:
“Many of our customers around the world and the critical systems they depend on were victims. Seeing businesses and individuals affected by cyberattacks, such as the ones reported today, was painful. Microsoft worked throughout the day to ensure we understood the attack and were taking all possible actions to protect our customers.”
The NSA developed the technology to infiltrate computer networks for the purpose of spying in an operation code named EternalBlue. The code used by the NSA was hacked and published in April and formed the basis of the current ransom ware.